Talkteena Air Taxi flightseeing has been lauded by the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic channel, and the BBC, among other notable media outlets. It has been taking off for trips since 1947, when the company helped pioneer flights, landings, and rescues in the Alaska Range. Today, pilots averaging 12 years of experience comprise a flightseeing team that shepherds groups of glacier gazers along four aerial routes. For each tour, passengers load into a De Havilland or Cessna plane from the outfit's fleet and strap on headsets so they can listen to the captain's commentary. The McKinley Base Camp trip leads onlookers on a winding trail along the south, east, and west faces of Mt. McKinley, and the Summit excursion ventures to higher altitudes and gives a scalp massage to the summits of Mt. McKinley, Mt. Foraker, and Mt. Hunter.
Amateur pilots can learn how to fly Cessna planes, Piper J3 Cubs, and Maule MX7s during float ratings, bush courses, and tailwheel training with Legends Aviation. For those who'd rather see the sights than take the controls, tours traverse some of Alaska's most notable landscapes, including Denali National Park, the Mount Spurr volcano, and the Knik Glacier. Soar over the icy peaks and deep valleys or hire a plane to take you to official checkpoints along the Iditarod Trail to look for abandoned foam fingers.
The Musk Ox Farm director Mark Austin is the first to admit that Maple, a three-day-old musk ox calf, is the cutest thing in the world. Her thin legs take wobbling steps. Her fine fuzz tickles her giant mother’s belly. And when she ambles through the pasture after nursing, her bright pink tongue wags from the side of her mouth. And Maple is just the beginning: 11 more calves are on the way this spring season, and the farm will soon burst into a flurry of feeding, combing, inserting microchips, tending to mothers, and, of course, greeting visitors.
Though he acknowledges the endearing quality of a baby musk ox in spring, Mr. Austin worries that visitors to The Musk Ox Farm might get so caught up with the new calf that they miss the farm's larger project. “I’m trying to battle the perception we’re a roadside attraction. It’s not just about getting out of your car and snapping a photo of a musk ox for your Alaska photo album.”
Not that Mr. Austin hasn’t snapped a few photos of Maple himself. He simply hopes the spectacle won’t overshadow the nonprofit farm’s scope, which begins and ends with the animals themselves. Although the majestic species is about 600,000 years old, domestication efforts began only 60 years ago by Farm founder John Teal. Every spring, the several-hundred-pound animals shed their qiviut, a thick under wool, some of which the farm ships to the native knitters’ cooperative in Oomingmak. There, members knit the wool into delicate lacy garments that they eventually sell to supplement their subsistence lifestyle. So when Mr. Austin looks at Maple, he sees not just a huggable calf, but the source of positive economic change for rural native Alaskan women. “The animals are fascinating,” he says. “But it’s the big picture that gets me up in the morning.”
Over sweeping evergreen pine forests and snow-capped mountains, the pilots from Above Alaska Aviation's FAR flight school hone their craft. FAA-certified instructors coach students in a range of specialized flight training in a fleet of 7EC Champ aircraft, as well as a PA-18 Super Cub and Cessna 180B. They train private pilot students in tailwheel aircraft from start to finish, tailwheel endorsements, and single-engine sea float ratings on the mountain lakes of Susitna Valley. Students learn the basics of flying tail-wheel aircraft?planes with landing gear on the tail?to hone skill sets, enhance their understanding of flight safety, and help them feel superior to carrier pigeons. When not teaching flight, bush pilots ferry passengers to remote wilderness areas where they can hike, fish, or hunt with rifles and bows.
The instructors at Alaska Kayak Academy share their love for sea kayaking by training and leading adventures in Alaska's rivers and coastal waters. Scheduled year-round, classes range from basic paddling instruction to deep-water rescue techniques. Guided trips cater to all levels of paddlers, with day trips along salmon runs and through the glacial ice of Prince William Sound. Rentals equip paddlers for independent exploration, refining skills, and humming quietly to themselves in peace. Alaska Kayak Academy also encompasses a store, where staff advise on gear such as new and used kayaks and the trendiest way to don a life jacket.
With gargantuan Mt. McKinley in the horizon, groups of adventurers glimpse Alaska’s untouched wilderness as Talkeetna River Guides’ staffers lead them down the glacier-fed Talkeetna River. After pairing off with a swift-water expert, guests set out on the pristine waterway on a variety of tours packed with information on the area’s flora, fauna, and history, as well as sights of salmon and vacationing Loch Ness monsters. With safety instincts developed over years exploring the Alaskan country, guides keep guests’ well-being at the forefront of their minds at all times. They also lead overnight rafting and fishing trips during which campers lounge on remote streams while watching moose and bears swap hunting stories.:m]]